Coronavirus: Relax? Don't do it, warns GP

THE common sense, population-based approach of people across Antrim ‘definitely helped to save many lives’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the view of Antrim Health Centre’s Dr Allen McCullough.

But speaking exclusively to the Antrim Guardian he insisted ‘there’s still a long way to go’ and has warned local people that it’s vital that they ‘don’t relax the guidelines too quickly’.

“Of course the Antrim area – as with every other area in Northern Ireland – was affected by the first wave of COVID-19,’ said Dr McCullough, ‘but I think that, by and large, the procedures that were put in place helped to keep the number of deaths to a minimum.

“When you consider that at one point the Minister for Health was talking about 15,000 potential deaths, the fact that the province had fewer than 1,000 is a major achievement.

“That’s not to lessen the fact that so many people died, of course, because at the end of the day one death is one too many, but the situation could have been so much worse.

“When you look at the number of deaths that have occurred in England, for example, you realise how much worse things could have been.

“I firmly believe that it was Northern Ireland’s collective approach and our cultural mindset, which is infinitely more rural than in England, was the secret to how we have contained the disease. We socialise in different ways to those across the water, and although there are regional differences within the province - North Antrim, for example, is very different to South Antrim - I think the population bought into the social distancing and handwashing messages whole-heartedly.

“We have undoubtedly kept lockdown relatively tight and that has kept the number of deaths to a minimum.

‘When COVID-19 was first announced, GPs were concerned about the information that we were receiving about possible outcomes.

“There’s no doubt that what we were being told was alarming, but, thankfully a lot of the suggestions didn’t come to fruition. As I said, at one point we were told that 15,000 deaths were likely but, without going into the rights and wrongs of what we were being told, the majority of decisions that were taken by the Assembly were correct.”

Despite being pleased at the community’s response to the virus, Dr McCullough is, however, keen to stress that everyone should remain vigilant.

* Continued on page 3.

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